Acts 28: 17 – 31 Paul preaches at Rome under guard
Three days later he called together the local Jewish leaders. When they had assembled, Paul said to them: ‘My brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or against the customs of our ancestors, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. They examined me and wanted to release me, because I was not guilty of any crime deserving death. The Jews objected, so I was compelled to make an appeal to Caesar. I certainly did not intend to bring any charge against my own people. For this reason I have asked to see you and talk with you. It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.’
They replied, ‘We have not received any letters from Judea concerning you, and none of our people who have come from there has reported or said anything bad about you. But we want to hear what your views are, for we know that people everywhere are talking against this sect.’
They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. He witnessed to them from morning to evening, explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the law of Moses and the prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus. Some were convinced by what he said but others would not believe. They disagreed among themselves and began to leave after Paul had made this final statement: ‘The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your ancestors when he said through Isaiah the prophet:
‘ “Go to this people and say, ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.’
For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly heaqr with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears and turn, and I would heal them.”
‘Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!’
For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ – with all boldness and without hindrance!
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St Luke concludes Acts with yet another justification for Paul to preach the good news to the Gentiles rather than the Jews. He describes how Paul invites leaders of the Jewish community in Rome to the place where he is staying.
Now, the local Jews had not had specific reports from Judea about Paul, but they had heard rumours that many people had been criticising those who followed Jesus. “But we want to hear what your views are, for we know that people everywhere are talking against this sect.’” they said. They were going to give Paul a hearing, but gossip had already prejudiced them against the faith.
Paul carefully expounds the arguments from Scripture showing that Jesus is the Messiah. Some were convinced, others not.
Paul then warned them sternly, using the words of Isaiah; they were behaving like the Jewish leaders of Isaiah’s time, who were corrupt and hard-hearted. As they refused to accept Jesus as Lord, Paul would preach his message instead to the Gentiles instead; they would believe!
Luke concludes Acts triumphantly: “For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ – with all boldness and without hindrance!”
Note that he “welcomed all who came to see him.”
I’m just going to meditate on that for a moment.
Salvation is a personal matter between God and an individual human. This is a different understanding from Judaism, where the covenant was between God and the descendants of Abraham. Speculating, this may well have been one of the big stumbling blocks for those Jews who rejected Jesus.
St Luke often records the violent rejection of the Jewish leadership to Paul’s message; does that mean that God then rejected all Jews? Well, we know he doesn’t.
“Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God.” (John 3: 1 – 2) We see Nicodemus twice more, the last time helping Joseph of Arimathea lay Jesus’ body in the tomb.
I feel confident that when St Luke says that Paul “welcomed all who came to see him,” he means Jews and Gentiles without distinction.
Thank you for loving me. Thank you for Jesus. Thank you for my brothers and sisters in Christ.
In Jesus’ name, Amen